The Way Up & Chaach NYC present
The original queen of the dancehall, Sister Nancy performing live!
with DJ Gravy (LargeUp, Rice & Peas, NYC) Chaach DJ Solo Freaky Outty
Selecta YT Lamar Leroy
3pm - 10pm
There is no wrong time to play 'Bam Bam.' Every summer belongs to 'Bam Bam.' ... A perfect song.” — The New Yorker
In the words of her iconic 1982 single “Bam Bam,” Sister Nancy is “one inna three million,” an artist whose talents truly “come from creation.”
Regarded as the first female star in the male-dominated world of Jamaican dancehall, Sister Nancy continues to blaze new trails 35 years after the release of her first and only album. Recently recognized by Pitchfork as The Best Dancehall Song of All-Time, “Bam Bam” has been sampled, quoted and referenced in tracks by Lauryn Hill, Wiz Khalifa, Too Short and Kanye West. Its ethereal and inherently cinematic tones have made it a popular choice for films, too, leading to memorable scenes in 1998’s Belly and Seth Rogen and James Franco’s The Interview (2014).
Born Ophlin Russell, Nancy grew up in Kingston, Jamaica’s Papine district, in a large family that included dancehall pioneer Brigadier Jerry. Her familial ties afforded her an opportunity granted few, if any, Jamaican girls at the time: To deejay (or chat) songs on sound systems, the local DJ crews that form the backbone of dancehall culture. After learning of her talents from artist General Echo, Winston Riley of Kingston’s storied Techniques Records label brought her into the studio to record her first single, “Papa Dean,” in 1979. Returning to the studio to complete what would be her first and only album, One Two, in 1982, Nancy lent her voice to a haunting, minimalist version of Riley’s Stalag riddim, a popular instrumental track voiced by countless artists since 1973. Co-opting a lyrical refrain (“Bam bam bi lam, bam bam, what a bam bam…) from Toots & the Maytals’ identically-named 1966 hit, Nancy created an anthem of female empowerment, repurposing the skepticism she encountered as the lone woman on the sound system circuit into a supremely-confident mission statement.
“One Two,” the title cut from her album, would become her signature hit in Jamaica, leading to international tours and collaborations with dancehall’s then-reigning king, Yellowman. Little heard at the time of its release, “Bam Bam” would find its audience in New York, first in the city’s Caribbean Diaspora and then in hip-hop. In the early 1990s, it was sampled by golden-era rap acts Main Source and Pete Rock & CL Smooth, and remixed into a hip-hop version by legendary radio DJ Stretch Armstrong. It wasn’t until Nancy herself relocated to New Jersey, where she would take a job as a bank accountant, later in the decade that she became aware of her song’s and her own iconic stateside status.
Hype Williams’ 1998 film Belly cemented Nancy’s place in the pop culture canon, in an unforgettable scene in which “Bam Bam” soundtracks the movements of the stunning Jamaican femme fatale, Chiquita. That same year, Lauryn Hill echoed Nancy’s “Bam Bam” chorus on “Lost Ones,” from her Grammy-winning and career-defining album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, passing Nancy’s patois inflections on to a new generation of listeners.
Since then, the samples, covers and placements —including a 2014 Reebok TV campaign featuring model Miranda Kerr —have become ever more frequent. In 2016, Nancy received the ultimate co-sign, or at least some really great exposure, when Kanye West used “Bam Bam” prominently on “Famous,” arguably the most controversial song and video of his always-provocative career. The New Yorker’s Carrie Battan went so far as to dub “Bam Bam” the Song of the Summer for 2016, describing it as “a perfect song” and a “reggae classic that only grows more lustrous with age.”
Now retired from her bank job and fully focused on music once more, Nancy began 2017 by performing in Jamaica for the first time in decades at Rebel Salute, the island’s top reggae festival, and appearing at Winter Music Conference in Miami. At a time when dancehall has re-entered the mainstream via pop hits by Rihanna and Drake and a new generation of Jamaican artists led by Popcaan, Spice and Kranium, Pitchfork celebrated “Bam Bam” as the best dancehall song of all-time in a list published in March.